023 Shiva Upreti

ARTIST – GAEL EPINEY
PHOTOGRAPHER – MARLI GORDON
INTERVIEW – RONISH MANANDHAR
TRANSLATION – UTSAV PRADHAN

Shiva Prasad Upreti

Shiva works in the Ministry of Education and had been employed there since before the earthquake. When the earthquake struck, he had the knowledge on earthquake safety to find a secure place on the third floor of his house and wait for the tremors to subside. He believes that Nepal’s government should focus more on educating its people on safety and preparation.

When the earthquake came, I was in my own house, up on the third floor. At the time I didn’t really feel scared and of course nothing happened. After the earthquake, my mind was concerned about how to help and what had happened.

There is empty lot of 5-6 ropani [approx. 2,800 sq. m.] in front of my house. We established a makeshift place to stay, with tents. But one problem we faced was that everybody who came, quickly settled and we didn’t know who had come from where. It was okay for them stay, but we were worried about other incidents occurring. One person did not know the other. For that day, because of fear, people did not talk. The next morning, I took the initiative and asked everybody to stay together with the ones they know and write their names down. I said, ‘Those who know each other, stay in a group. If you do not know anybody, then register your name and stay here.’

More than that day, I am the head of the department of disaster education and I also led the National Education Cluster. According to that, what had happened to schools, how much damage was there, how to start immediate education and whose aid should we accept. I was hurried to address all those issues. Right after the earthquake, we called a meeting, maybe we were the first ones. There are 11 clusters in our Nepal.

More than schools, for a disaster there must be prior preparation and readiness afterwards. Management is one way but we should have prior preparation. Spreading education is very necessary.

Shiva gives an example of another disaster he experienced when he was young.

When I was small, the way I survived [the storm] was by recalling what my grandmother had told me; if a big storm comes, find a place that is safe from falling trees and building debris, and lie on the ground. I suddenly remembered that. Others rushed towards the gate but we went to the upper line of the parapet and laid there for about 10 minutes. If we had not stayed like that, there would have been 3 more additions to those 71 deaths. What this means is: knowledge, skill and attitude. Organizations’ knowledge, disaster management’s knowledge, and people’s skill and attitude is very important.

I think three factors should be focused on simultaneously. First, structures should be made properly. The policies of building and reconstruction should be followed simultaneously. Schools that are built should not fall from light tremors. Houses as well. Secondly, when such a problem arises, how to manage things; how to implement Disaster Management according to the area. People and schools should have that knowledge. That should be done. Thirdly, awareness campaigns are not useful if only done once. It does not benefit anybody especially organizations like yours. It should be tied along with the regular system in a systematic manner. Training and knowledge should be integrated with the curriculum, textbooks and manuals. If that is done properly, only then these three factors will move forward simultaneously. It is known as a resilient society. Even when a disaster strikes, a community which can stand back up and return to a normal state is known as a resilient community. That is a resilient society. If we avoid duplicate work and spread knowledge, then it will be better for everyone.


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